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The English Apple Man


8th Mar 2019 - Life is a series of mysteries

Do you ever wonder about the mysteries of life?


Virus's and Bacteria are embedded in the fabric of life.


Viruses are the smallest and simplest life form known.


The biggest difference between viruses and bacteria is that viruses must have a living host!


Antibiotics cannot kill viruses, but can kill most bacteria.


Bacterial Canker the scourge of many 'tree fruit' trees may be challenged by the use of 'phages'


Bacteriophage, phage(noun) a virus that is parasitic (reproduces itself) in bacteria. "phage uses the bacterium's machinery and energy to produce more phage until the bacterium is destroyed and phage is released to invade surrounding bacteria".

Below: serious canker (Neonectria ditissima) in an apple tree


Globally: Canker is possibly the most devastating challenge in apple growing and Bacterial canker equally so in cherry trees. Apple canker is a disease caused by a fungus, Neonectria ditissima, which attacks the bark of apples and some other trees, causing a sunken area of dead bark and, eventually, death of the branch. New cankers form from mid-spring, and once formed are present all year.


Scientists spend a great deal of their time searching for ways to combat canker. Frustratingly the most popular varieties are often the most susceptible to canker. The debate about where infection in an orchard originates, is ongoing. Growers often complain it was already in the young tree when it arrived for the nursery even though it may be invisible to the naked eye, and in some cases this is certainly true. However once the canker spores are prevalent in an orchard, they can/will move an infect otherwise healthy trees.


Orchard hygiene is a vital element in combatting canker; pruning in wet weather is also a potentially high risk task; leaf abscission is another opportunity for infection entering the tree system. Once there is a high level of canker spores in the orchard, it is no surprise that canker can become rampant, often leaving the grower with removing infected trees as the only option.


It is not surprising, therefore that at the recent AHDB Tree Fruit Day held at NIAB/EMR many of the presentations featured research into controlling canker.


Dr.Lucas Shuttleworth updated the audience on results from AHDB Project TF223 - the latest results on apple canker research.


Lucas explained the process comparing natural infection v artificial infection using rootstocks known to confer resistance to pathogens such as Neonectria ditissima - The trial evaluated resistance conferred by commonly used and advanced rootstock selections from NIAB/EMRA and Geneva breeding programmes. Natural infection v artificial infection was carried out on two sites; one in Kent and one in Gloucestershire.


Canker infection was low for all naturally infected sites - With artificial inoculations, EMR-002 and EMR-006 show promise as new rootstock varieties with lower canker. Existing rootstock varieties; MM106 and M26 als showed lower canker.




There will be continued assessment pf canker in natural and artificial infection experiments at East Egham and Herridges.


Soil amendments to reduce apple canker


Neonectria ditissima shown to infect apple trees in the nursery and remain asymptomatic - once planted trees experience stress eg. drought, waterlogging, replant disease and the canker is then expressed.


Biological soil amendments may improve tree health and establishment in the context of canker expression!




Soil amendments on newly planted orchards and a stoolbed experiment using AMF, PGPR & Trichoderma produced some worthwhile results.


PGPR stands for Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria.


Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) constitute a group of root obligate biotrophs that exchange mutual benefits with about 80% of plants. They are considered natural biofertilizers, since they provide the host with water, nutrients, and pathogen protection, in exchange for photosynthetic products.


The Genus Trichoderma is one of the most abundant fungi that have been shown to be present in all climatic zones.


Below: Stoolbed results




Below: Newly planted tree results






Bacteriopgages for the control of cherry bacterial canker


Presented by Matevz Papp-Rupar, explored the possibilities of controlling bacterial canker in cherries by infecting bacteria with a specific virus.


A bacteriophage is a virus that infects bacteria. Bacteriophages, first discovered around 1915, have played a unique role in viral biology. They are perhaps the best-understood viruses, yet at the same time, their structure can be extraordinarily complex.


Planet Earth has been here for a very long time


Viruses are the smallest and simplest life form; they are 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria.




Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can live either inside or outside other cells. They can survive without a cellular host.



Viruses, on the other hand, are only intracellular organisms, meaning that they infiltrate the host cell and live inside the cell. Viruses change the host cell's genetic material from its normal function to producing the virus itself.


Antibiotics cannot kill viruses, but can kill most bacteria, with the exception of bacteria that have become resistant to the antibiotic.


It is well known that misuse and overuse of antibiotics have led to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are becoming less effective against potentially harmful bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are highly resistant to treatment with antibiotics, but can be killed by some.







Phages are 10 times more abundant than all other organisms on Earth combined!


Scientists at NIAB/EMR are aiming to isolate and characterise large collection of potential biocontrol phages with UK origin. Soil, leaves, and bark collected in orchards in the UK. 70 phages isolated active against different canker causing strains of Pseudomonas (PSS, PSMI, PSM2) while none of the phages active against 'beneficial bacteria' Pseudomonas fluorescens!


Pseudomonas fluorescens colonization can be beneficial for plants. Having these bacteria in a root system may help plants resist fungal infections and can help plants absorb nutrients more effectively. These two positive uses of the bacterium have been explored in a number of laboratories.


Phages already have been established as commercial products and now AHDB are funding research into the potential for controlling bacterial canker in Cherry trees.


Below: Phages in Plant Disease Management



Below: Summary of Phages








Last night at the Kent Event Centre The English Apple Man accompanied his son Stuart to the 2019 Taste of Kent Awards Dinner. A truly wonderful evening with so many innovative products; foods, drinks, services etc. celebrated by the inspirational producers.


Stuart and I helped judge The Tastiest Apple & Pear Classes.


Below: left; Clive Baxter receives his award for Tastiest Pear and right; Stuart (my son) Garry and Darren (all three representing NFU Mutual - Ashford, Tenterden & Whitfield) and far right The English Apple Man



Below: left; Laura Bounds and her team at Kent Crisps & Kent Oils - winners - Kent Food Product Classes - Ambient and right; the Myatt Family - double winners with their Strawberry and Blackberry entries.



Below: left; The Boulden Family - Winners of the Kent Countryside Award - Large Farm Category and right; All the ToKa Winners pose for a group picture



The above pictures are just a small selection of Winners and ToKa Dinner attendees; for a full listing click on: 2019 Taste of Kent Awards




Rural Focus Press Group's Pat Crawford expresses environmental concerns.


The UK experienced its warmest February day on record with the Met Office reporting a temperature of over 21.00C. The numbers of Extreme Weather Events are increasing around the globe, meanwhile NASA scientists are monitoring a vast crack in the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The rift, which had been stable for about 35 years, is reported to be travelling north at a pace of roughly 2. 5 miles per year and is accelerating towards the Halloween Crack, another rift located less than 3 miles away.


When these rifts intersect it is estimated that an iceberg measuring a minimum of 660 square miles could break off in a process known as 'calving'. At the current time scientists are uncertain how these processes might affect the Brunt Ice Shelf.


Calving is a natural process that occurs during an ice shelf's lifecycle but scientists report that Antarctica's ice shelves are getting thinner due to climate change. A recent television report concerning the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI Research Station - which is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf - suggested it may have to be relocated as a result of the changes.


During 2018 the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that almost every country will need to improve on their commitments made at the Paris Climate Accord. Under that agreement, 195 countries pledged to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions but Mr Trump subsequently pulled the US out. Few countries are meeting their goals: the UK, although struggling to cut emissions, is so far the only developed economy to initiate a body to track how well it is doing in relation to meeting its Paris Agreement targets.




Take care




TheEnglish Apple Man